UNDERSTANDING THE WORD 'CHURCH'
Majority of Christians do not fully understand the meaning of the word church. Their concept of it is only based on what they are taught from the pulpit of their religious affiliation. This ignorance, or lack of proper understanding, has enabled certain charismatic leaders and their movements to attract members towards their own cult. They have been successful in convincing their members that their organization is indeed the church that has a direct relationship with The Christ being His body or organization on earth. And, after aligning themselves with some biblical prophecies, some of these cults even dared to claim that theirs is the only church that will be saved by The Savior on His return, and the exclusive authority in preaching the salvation of The Lord Yeshua-Christos. Could they all be closer to the evangelical truth of The Savior Yeshua?
COMMON DEFINITIONS OF ‘CHURCH’
What are the common definitions of the word ‘church’? The Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary has the following definitions:
Definition of the Church. The New Testament word for "church" is ekklesia [ejkklhsiva], which means "the called out ones." In classical Greek, the term was used almost exclusively for political gatherings. In particular, in Athens the word signified the assembling of the citizens for the purpose of conducting the affairs of the polis. Moreover, ekklesia[ejkklhsiva] referred only to the actual meeting, not to the citizens themselves. When the people were not assembled, they were not considered to be the ekklesia [ejkklhsiva]. The New Testament records three instances of this secular usage of the term ( Acts 19:32 Acts 19:39 Acts 19:41 )…
When we come to the New Testament, we discover that ekklesia [ejkklhsiva] is used of the community of God's people some 109 times (out of 114 occurrences of the term). Although the word only occurs in two Gospel passages ( Matt 16:18 ; 18:17 ), it is of special importance in Acts (23 times) and the Pauline writings (46 times). It is found twenty times in Revelation and only in isolated instances in James and Hebrews. We may broach the subject of the biblical teaching on the church by drawing three general conclusions from the data so far. First, predominantly ekklesia [ejkklhsiva] (both in the singular and plural) applies to a local assembly of those who profess faith in and allegiance to Christ. Second, ekklesia [ejkklhsiva] designates the universal church ( Acts 8:3 ; 9:31 ; 1 Cor 12:28 ; 15:9 ; especially in the later Pauline letters, Eph 1:22-23 ; Col 1:18 ). Third, the ekklesia [ejkklhsiva] is God's congregation ( 1 Cor 1:2 ; 2 Cor 1:1 ; etc.). (Emphasis ours)
Although the dictionary’s commentator drew three general conclusions on the concept of church as could be that of (a) a local assembly, or (b) the universal church or (c) as God’s congregation, we are more interested in its organic definition. Let us note a couple of key points from the dictionary’s definition of the word ‘church’:
The New Testament word for ‘church’ is ekklesia.
How “in classical Greek, the term was used almost exclusively for political gatherings. In particular, in Athens the word signified the assembling of the citizens for the purpose of conducting the affairs of the polis."
Moreover, ekklesia referred only to the actual meeting, not to the citizens themselves. When the people were not assembled, they were not considered to be the ekklesia.
The organic definition of ‘ekklesia’ is assembly, or gathering, or congregation - and it only applies when the people are actually assembled, gathered or congregating. Could this be the same value of ‘ekklesia’ as taught by The Savior?
GOSPEL TRUTH ABOUT ‘EKKLESIA’
The Lord Yeshua encouraged His followers to gather or congregate in His name, and for those who will do He made a promise unto them:
20 For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.”
The organic meaning of the word ‘ekklesia’ is reflected in the statement of The Lord concerning the gathering, assembly or congregating of two or three of His followers – this is the very essence of ‘ekklesia’ or church, a spiritual gathering of The Lord’s followers or disciples. What makes this gathering a ‘spiritual ekklesia’? The promise of Christ that He will be in the midst of them.
What is the duration of the ‘spiritual ekklesia’? For as long as they are gathered together in The Lord’s name. Meaning, when the gathering is over, then the ‘spiritual ekklesia’ is dispersed or cease to exist. Just like the organic meaning of the term based in ‘classical Greek’ which was the original language of the New Testament.
THE ‘EKKLESIA’ IN MATTHEW 16:18 IS THE HOLY CITY
18 And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. 19 And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”
As “ekklesia is used of the community of God's people some 109 times” in the New Testament (Baker), The Lord’s mention of it in Matthew 16:18 differs from the other times it is mentioned. Unlike all others, this specific ‘Ekklesia’ or gathering of the called out is not on this earth, but is the one that He continues to build in His Father’s house (Jn. 14:2-3) as the heavenly estate or inheritance that He promised to His followers. This is the same Sanctuary and rock prophesied by Isaiah (Isa. 8:14) and seen by Apostle John in his vision as the Tabernacle of God (Rev. 21:3). This is the New Jerusalem, the future and final gathering of God’s people in the Kingdom of Heaven.
Apostle Peter whom The Christ had given the keys or understanding of the Kingdom of Heaven called it Spiritual House, further proving that the ‘Ekklesia’ built on the Rock (the Rock is The Christ Yeshua) is not terrestrial. Where the Rock is, there also is the ‘Ekklesia’ built unto Him – in heaven. And as guaranteed by The Lord, “the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.” Which of all the organized churches was not prevailed by the gates of Hades or power of darkness which are scandals brought by man’s corruption? Not one of these organizations that bear the name of The Savior.
Read our article on the 'Ekklesia' that The Lord promised to build in Matthew 16:18:
THE CHRIST DID NOT BUILD AN ORGANIZATION
The teaching of many cults that their church is the organization built by The Savior is unfounded. At the front of these claimants is the Roman Catholic Church with their claim that it was The Christ himself who founded their organization via Apostle Peter whom they recognize as the foundation rock of the church. However, belonging to the same category, although having their own pathway of getting connected with the Matthew 16:18 verse, would be the rest of the cult churches and movements like the Latter Day Saints and the Iglesia ni Cristo (1914).
What proves that The Christ Yeshua did not build an organization? He never required membership but rather follower-ship from among those who believe in Him. If it were an organization He would have asked them to become members. Instead, He asked them to follow Him because what He started is a movement from within the Jewish nation.
What evangelical truth supports this exposition? The Christ did not require His faithful to discontinue with their Jewish faith:
“These things I have spoken to you, that you should not be made to stumble. 2 They will put you out of the synagogues; yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service.
The Lord did not stop His disciples from attending in the synagogues, the center-point of the Jewish faith wherein they regularly receive the Scriptures and Commandments. In fact, He simply prepare them for the time when the non-believing Jews would persecute them and ostracize them from the synagogues and their own communities. Had He established an organization, wouldn't He have already discouraged them from attending in the synagogues and just attend His own gatherings?
The doctrines of many cult churches that claim to be the organization of The Lord on earth is wrong. Fact is, The Lord Yeshua did not establish an organization on earth, thus, no one can claim that their church or organization is that which The Lord promised to build in Matthew 16:18. Another unknown fact is that the ‘Ekklesia’ that He promised in the same verse mentioned above is the final gathering or assembly of God’s people in the Holy City or the New Jerusalem. This is the same Tabernacle wherein God’s people will offer worship unto Him day and night for eternity. This is also the same Sanctuary wherein God’s people can find rest, as it is also a place of refuge.
The big contrast of the disciples' ekklesia to that of other churches as organizations is that when the disciples are dispersed then the their ekklesia stop to exist, for their ekklesia is simply the gathering or assembly and not the people themselves. Because of this fact, they are not subject unto any person nor do they belong to any organization. The Savior gave His account defining His true followers or disciples whom He likened to the wind in that they are unrestricted:
5 Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
FOR A RELATED READING: https://www.spiritualhouse.info/the-church-that-christ-builds